Germany,  Hamburg

Martina & Jorg in Hamburg, Germany

 

Hamburg
Martina and Jörg Mahlmann
Schnitzel

The Place: Hamburg, Germany

It’s easy to fall in love with Hamburg. For those not usually a fan of big cities, this one may offer a solution. Before you have time to feel claustrophobic, or walled in by the hustle and bustle around you, you’ll stumble across one of the many canals that carve paths between buildings. Or perhaps you’ll find yourself on a lakeshore in the city centre, watching sailboats glide through the water. The abundance of water is calming, and you’ll feel like your in some city-countryside hybrid as you explore the waterways and the banks of the famous Elbe river that cuts right through the heart of the city.

In an activity hub like Hamburg, it’s near impossible to focus on one attraction that stands above the others. Most people will tell you to brave the surprisingly overt underworld of the Reeperbahn, featuring a red-light district, some incredibly disturbing sex-shops, and much of the city’s night-life squeezed onto one strip. For me, though, it’s not the shady clubs, streets lined with prostitutes or bars of the Reeperbahn that will remain etched into my memory for years, but the experience of “Dialogue Im Dunkeln”, or “Dialogue in the Dark”.  Without spoiling it, all I will say is it’s an exhibition that gives it’s visitors the experience of being blind for one-and-a-half hours, and one of the most educational, inspiring, and fascinating things I’ve been able to do on the Arctic to Asia cycle tour so far. €17 (student price) may seem steep to some of us, but it’s worth sacrificing a night out for if you’re trying to stick to a budget.


Please note that we do not fact-check our interviewees, and that their views do not necessarily represent our own.

The People: Martina, 55, Doctor, and Jörg Mahlmann, 56, Lawyer

 

Martina: I was born in Northern Germany, and we’ve been living here for 25 years. We love Hamburg, and we moved here because of my Husband’s job. I have been a GP since I was 28.

 

Jorg: It was a choice to move here, not a necessity. I had to look for a new job after my second exam as a lawyer. I am now a Corporate and Tax Lawyer.

 

  1. What is home to you?

The way people live and think is different to other parts of the world. Not better, but different. There’s even a special way people pronounce words here, and that is home. I would miss that if I wasn’t here.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: For me home is of course my house and my family. I think home would not be a place in the mountains, for me. I love flat, open plains. I prefer cities to town and countryside. I have been to one other city that felt like home or like Hamburg, and that was Vancouver. I don’t know what it was, but it could have been home. Maybe it was the water around it.

 

Jorg: Home for me is the people living here, and there’s a special kind of people living here. The way people live and think is different to other parts of the world. Not better, but different. There’s even a special way people pronounce words here, and that is home. I would miss that if I wasn’t here.

 

  1. What is special about Hamburg?

“People are very direct… When they say something, they mean it… In Hamburg, if you plan something, you can be sure it will happen.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: People are very direct in what they want and what they tell you. When they say something, they mean it. For example, we both have lived in Düsseldorf many years ago, and people invite you for a dinner or a meeting, and then they cancel. In Hamburg, if you plan something, you can be sure it will happen.

 

Jörg: Another thing: our impression was “it’s like Britain!” It’s rather similar to British cities, from the buildings and how it looks.

 

Martina: But maybe that’s because of the trade between Hamburg and the U.K. It’s the big harbour in Germany.

 

Jörg: It’s called the ‘gate to the world’…

 

  1. What have you learned from living in Hamburg?

I think Hamburg taught me to be honest.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: I think Hamburg taught me to be honest. In Düsseldorf, you have to show that you have a lot of money, and pretend that you’re very important. Here, you don’t have to do all of those things, and it’s less superficial. 

 

 

  1. Have you been outside of Hamburg and Germany?

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: That’s totally clear for me. It was Oman. I like the oriental way of living, cooking, and I like the landscape. It’s a lot of desert. They have very large, modern cities and mountains. And of course I like the people.

 

Jörg: I loved our holidays in Turkey because the people are famous for their welcoming culture. We were in the South, on the Mediterranea. And I love England. That’s the reason we sent our three children to school there.

 

Martina: I’m addicted to England. When I finished my studying, I went to Preston near Liverpool for 6 months to work in Wiston hospital. And I loved it so much that it was my intention that when my children were a bit older, they would go to England.

 

  1. Can you think of a time you have been proud of Germany?

I think we have good reason for being proud of it when it comes to business, and technological capacities in Germany – of course, we can be proud of that. But after WWII it’s difficult to say Germany is a big, great country. It was a shame to be German for a long time and that is still in us.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

 

Jörg: This is a really difficult question for Germans.

 

Martina: Mostly, you feel a bit ashamed when you have to say you are German. I would say the first time that we were allowed to be proud again was not long ago.

 

Jörg: The last football championship in Germany. It was 8 years ago. It was a really nice summer, and there was a really good mood here.

 

Martina: All the other nationalities here also felt good, and that made us proud. But before that you couldn’t really show your flag in Germany.

 

Jörg: We are proud of our culture, and I think we have good reason for being proud of it when it comes to business, and technological capacities in Germany – of course, we can be proud of that. But after WWII it’s difficult to say Germany is a big, great country. It was a shame to be German for a long time and that is still in us. Our parents weren’t soldiers, they were too young – they lived through the second world war, and were born in that time. But our grandparents were involved. So we feel close to that time still. For our children it’s not such a problem any more, they’re too distant from it.

 

Martina: I would have been very happy if I had been born in the 1920s, because I like this period of time. Berlin was a really big city, and there was even competition between Paris and Berlin. It was one of the most important cities of Europe, and I love the flare and the people at that time. Germany was a place where you could have been proud to be. After the world war, everything changed. Berlin was destroyed, it was not a good place to be. There was no opportunity for people who were raised there, so they had to go out of Berlin – to America, to Paris.

 

Jörg: It was a surrounded city; an island. It was completely isolated. There was no business, no industry, nothing, because you had West Berlin surrounded by the German Democratic Republic (GDR), so nothing could develop there. We lost a lot from the War. Not just artists. Albert Einstein was a German. But lots of Jewish artists weren’t allowed to work anymore. Those that weren’t killed emigrated. Many, many people left. And they didn’t come back. I wouldn’t have come back either if I were them; there was no reason to.

 

Martina: So many people who belonged here, who were Germany, who represented Germany, were gone. That’s the reason why we say a part of Germany died. They didn’t come back and they were gone forever.

 

Jörg: I think the best times in the world wherever you look, on the cultural or economic level, or in the pursuit of knowledge in science, were the times when different cultures mixed together and lived together at peace. You had it in the South of Spain when Muslims were there. As soon as you start to separate people, you stop the development, and it makes it poor. The mixture makes it rich. In the 1920s, it was a mixture in Berlin.

 

After the war, we had to rebuild. Just imagine, everything was destroyed, and they had to start from zero, from scratch. Everything was modern. Germany is a well-educated country and people had skills, so it was normal that they were able to start again. There was no other choice. They couldn’t be proud of anything but success. And that’s why Germany rose again.

  1. What is your main concern or worry about Hamburg?

“…the rise of the extreme right. Like Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands or France. And also, not exactly in the same way but with Britain declaring “we are on our own, we are not Europeans any more…” Instead of saying “we are a big family”…”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: I think that refers to what we said before. It’s our history.

 

Jörg: Not only our history but the present as well, because many stupid people are here still. The migration in the last few years has caused a raise of that old stupidity, and you see it all over Europe. It is in Germany too. This is a concern for me; the rise of the extreme right. Like Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands or France. And also, not exactly in the same way but with Britain declaring “we are on our own, we are not Europeans any more…” Instead of saying “we are a big family” now we are Polish, we are French, we are German, we are British. This is stupid. We should have learned after WWII that we are Europeans first. This is insane, especially for Europe.

  1. What are your thoughts on Stereotypes of Hamburgers?

“…the stereotype that most people think about only applies to a Bavarian. It would be the same as if you said every British person wears a kilt.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Jörg: Internationally, there is a stereotype of Germans – the man with the leather pants. But really this actually a Bavarian, who lives in the South, in the Alps. So the stereotype that most people think about only applies to a Bavarian. It would be the same as if you said every British person wears a kilt.

  1. What is the best thing to ever come out of Hamburg?

“The Beatles! They performed on the Reeperbahn! There was a pub that they played at, and they weren’t big before that. They lived here for two years.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: The Beatles! They performed on the Reeperbahn! There was a pub that they played at, and they weren’t big before that. They lived here for two years.

 

Jörg: They came from Liverpool and got famous here in Hamburg. Karl Lagerfeld also comes from Hamburg. He’s with Chanel… the perfumes, the dresses.

 

Martina: You know him, he’s the old man with the grey hair in a ponytail. He’s a fashion designer.

  1. What do you eat during the Holidays here?

There’s only one typical dish for Hamburg: Labskaus, and I have never eaten it. It looks as though someone’s already eaten it.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Martina: Goose. We have it with red cabbage and plums, apples and oranges stuffed inside. It’s eaten across Germany.

 

Jörg: There’s only one typical dish for Hamburg: Labskaus, and I have never eaten it. It looks as though someone’s already eaten it. It’s fish, veal, and egg. But I’m not sure it’s a holiday dish specifically.

  1. What is something outsiders may not know about Hamburg?

“This is a very international city without major secrets, except of the Reeperbahn. The area around there has lots of secrets. It’s a red-light district where young people go out for the evening… this is special to Hamburg… Just imagine, the poor harbour-workers are out on the sea without anyone for months. So what do they do when they come to land? They go to the red-light district. That’s why we have them in harbour cities.”

See Martina and Jörg's Full Answer

Jörg: This is a very international city without major secrets, except of the Reeperbahn. The area around there has lots of secrets. It’s a red-light district where young people go out for the evening. I think this is special to Hamburg. If you’re an international city and you have a red-light district, your kids won’t go there, and you as a Father would say “you don’t go there!” But it’s normal in Hamburg that young people go out there.

 

Martina: But it wasn’t like that many years ago. My uncle was a captain, and he came often to Hamburg when his ship came to Germany. And then it was only for sea-men. No young people would have gone there 20-30 years ago. Hamburg was the biggest port in Europe, so there were many sailors coming in.

 

Jörg: Back then it is what you we would imagine when you hear “red-light district” today. It was not forbidden then either. It was illegal to do it but no one sentenced the women there. They couldn’t claim or sue for money and had no legal protection, but it was not forbidden. Hamburg is still the biggest port in Germany, but now you have Amsterdam and Rotterdam. Just imagine, the poor harbour-workers are out on the sea without anyone for months. So what do they do when they come to land? They go to the red-light district. That’s why we have them in harbour cities.

 

Martina: I think this is typical for Hamburg and other parts of Northern Europe to be proud of these kinds of things. And that’s another thing I like about Hamburg. It’s very liberal. This wouldn’t be possible in Munich. Never. Munich is very catholic, and conservative.

 

Jörg: We are relaxed about it. It’s no problem, this is normal business, we’ve known it for hundreds of years as a harbour city. The one other thing people don’t know about Hamburg: we have many more bridges than Venice! And also if you work in the centre in the town, you can go out sailing on your noon break because we have the Außenalster there – the lake – and some people do that.

 

Reccomendation:

Since we were staying with him, we took the recommendation of the Mahlmann’s son, Max, for our ‘Plate’ in Hamburg, and Martina and Jörg concurred. Fulfilling our predictions, he told us we had to try Schnitzel during our stay for an authentic German culinary experience, something both Miriam and I had been desperately waiting for after two months of Scandinavian cuisine.

Life According to Locals #Hamburg #Germany #InterviewsWithLocals Click To Tweet


The Plate: Schnitzel

If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that it is very hard to mess up fried meat. Whether it be chicken, pork or beef, it usually ranges from decent to incredible. Schnitzel is no exception. Despite its intimidating presentation- a hunk of fried, flat, meat that takes up the best part of a plate – it’s not as heavy and overwhelming as it looks. It’s battered veal, and in this case, simple is better. A combination of a few basic and pure flavours that complement each other well, there’s no sneaky undertones or subtle hints of herbs or spices. What you see is what you get. A few drops of lemon are a counterweight to a saltiness that might otherwise tip the scales, and offers some much-needed contrasting flavour. Of course, a German meal isn’t complete without a German drink. Served in a glass as big as my head, we chose at random from a list of local beverages at ‘Hofbräu Wirtshaus Speersort’, a restaurant that seems to live in a perpetual Oktoberfest recommended to us by the Mahlmann’s son, Max. Ok, so it may be a bit of a tourist trap, but it offers a taste of supposedly “authentic” german food, and the long wooden tables and waiters and waitresses clad in lederhosen make for a pretty entertaining atmosphere.


BONUS: Veal and Fish Sausage at the Oberhafn Kantine

If you find yourself looking for a place to eat in Hamburg, I implore you to try the Oberhafn Kantine. Decades of damage by flooding to it’s foundations have caused the weary looking restaurant to slump and tilt towards the road. This makes for a dizzying experience while inside, as your brain tries to reconcile your sense of off-balance with the fact that you’re sat at a dinner table. Serving traditional German food and originally an establishment frequented by dock-workers, its definitely one of the quirkiest places I’ve ever eaten at, and one where you’d want to refrain from having a few too many. Having said that, be warned if you order the fish and veal sausage. You might expect to be served some fish, and a veal sausage on the side. Wrong. What you’ll be treated to is one of the strangest combinations of meat in a sausage that I’ve ever tasted. I’m not 100% convinced it works, as the fishy aftertaste seems out of place and the flavours fight with each other. However, the restaurant itself is worth the walk away from the centre if nothing else than to test your balance.

Oberhafen-Kantine
Fish and Veal Sausage

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Attempting to cycle from Tromsø in Northern Norway to Baku, Azerbaijan while interviewing locals en route. Despite my chequered history with bikes, here’s to me returning home with an intact facial structure and at least as many body parts as I left with.

2 Thoughts on Martina & Jorg in Hamburg, Germany
    Dennis
    19 Oct 2018
    1:37pm

    Your interviewing technique is certainly getting some interesting results!

    Hilda Freedman
    18 Oct 2018
    8:36am

    As a jew it is very hard to comment on this article. Hamburg sounds like a good place to live. It upsets me to think that Martina and Jorg (such nice people) have to carry the burden of what happened in the second world war – but it was such a terrible happening.

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